The low, bricked ceiling and dank smell only added to the feeling of foreboding the plucky group now felt creeping ever higher up their spine. Whitewash covered the flaking brickwork of what could only be described as an underground cellar. A network of tunnels linked the subterranean hovel to the surface and also provided a chance for escape if the meeting was rumbled by the very people they discussed right now.
About thirty men and women were huddled over a wooden table that was dressed with a rudimentary map. Different colours on the map indicated various instructions that a tall man dressed in red and white was conveying to his ragtag bunch of troops. His audience – who evidently shared the tall mans fashion sense – were intently listening to every syllable.
” You all have your postings. You all know your roles. Any deviation in these instructions could lead to disaster. None of us want that so make sure you stick to these rules and everyone will be just fine. This must work. You know the consequences of failure. Remember our strategy if any of us don’t manage to get back here. I have confidence in you all. Let’s go through the plan one more time.”
The general nods of approval was shared by all except one. An equally tall man, similarly dressed but with a bobble hat, had a comically quizzical look on his face, as if he had just seen a fish on a bicycle. He cleared his throat.
” Ahem, sorry to interrupt.”
His interjection was met with derision and sighs of resignation. Would this idiot just stop with the idiotic questions?
Bobble hat man carried on.
” Sorry people, but don’t you think we’re taking this a bit seriously? It’s just a protest at the way the club is being run, it’s not exactly a tyrannical regime! Can’t we just get a petition going? Or maybe go to Colney, y’know, directly at the source? ”
At this suggestion, more vocal opposition erupted. Who invited this moron?
The tall man at the head of the table spoke once more. His voice commanded respect.
” Son, we’ve talked about this. Our club is stagnant. A distinct lack of investment and an obstinate view of tactics over a lengthy period has led us down this path. We need change. Our ‘Great and Glorious Leader’ has a lot to answer for and we have to show him we won’t stand for it!”
With that motivational speech a chorus of fist pumps and approval reverberated around the ramshackle area. The bobble-hatted man wasn’t swayed though.
” Erm, yeah, that’s fair. We should have a voice. We have a right to voice our concerns. Don’t you think though, that protesting in front of the players could have a negative effect? They acknowledged the banner at the West Brom game, they saw it. Maybe we could ask more pertinent questions next time we attend a Q&A with him? Maybe we could also acknowledge the difficulties he’s faced and also that we’re slowly picking up form?”
Cackles of negativity filled the room. How short sighted was this fella?#
The tall man spoke again.
” Kid, have you seen our record versus the big teams? Have you noticed we haven’t won the League in over ten years? Despite taking in more money from fans than any other club? We all know he has money to spend but he thinks that sub-standard players can fulfill the role rather than invest in better? Maybe he could devise a Plan B once in a while? Instead of the usual fare we have all seen time and again? Son, you know it’s time for him to go and to let the Board know we aren’t going to put up with it anymore!”
More cries of positivity, more fist pumps and whoops. The crowd were getting restless. They wanted action now.
The bobble-hatted man, more than aware he was approaching being lynched by the now baying mob, ploughed on regardless.
” He has shown we have a Plan B! We have substance now! We’ve won ugly without trying to create a thrity-six pass move before scoring! True, we needed to invest more in the summer – especially defensively – but….”
The tall man had hit his limit.
” ENOUGH!!!! You’re here for the same reason as us. You want better for the fans. So, for the love of Bergkamp, hush your everlasting flapping gums. Now, is the banner ready?”
A woman at the back of the crowd let him know it was ready to be deployed.
” Great. Have we received a response from the rest of the group? ”
Another person amidst the cadre voiced their response, which was positive.
” Fantastic. Now, what of the other twelve protest groups? We need them.”
A man and a woman stepped forward. The man, who was of short stature but with a heaving belly, spoke but with his eyes to the floor.
” Err, yeah. Well, I ‘eard from five of ’em last Tuesday on Twitter that we’d meet ’em at the spot. The other seven were making A4 cards to ‘old up in the ground. They said they would be there. ”
The tall man sighed. With a divided fan-base, nothing would be achieved. Splintered objectives were the bane of his life. One group wanted the Boss out. The other were of the opinion that the Board were the hand that throttled the Club. Others wanted answers, Some merely wanted a shift in focus. He thought he had them all as one and in one forceful voice that would shatter the ignorant cloud that everyone at the club had their heads in. This cannot fail.
He held the bridge of his nose between his fingers and sighed. ” OK, then we will have to take them at their word. Now, if everyone is ready, let’s do this.”
They all funnelled through the small door that served as the only exit. The bobble-hatted man loitered slightly so he could be at the back of the group.
They climbed stairs until the small slit of light made itself abundantly clear that it was the door to the surface. Once the bobble-hatted man came through the door, The Emirates was in full view. A sharp breeze welcomed his slight frame brusquely.
He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his insulated jacket and made his way to the meeting point, which was at the stairs next to the Armoury.
As he inched closer, in one movement, the group he had just been underground with pulled out their masks. The face of George Graham met his gaze, at least thirty times. He cringed inwardly.
Another two cartels made themselves aware from the East and West. In total, about fourteen joined up with the current incumbents of the concrete stairs. These new fans pulled out their masks, which had the visage of Paul Merson.
Groans form the original group met the view of the ‘Magic Man’. The tall man who led the group cried out ” Terry!! For fuck sake, you were told it was George Graham masks! We need to carry the same message!”
One of the people who had entered from the East piped up.
” Yeah, I know, but as spokesman for the ‘Arsenal Tactical Movement’, we felt that Merson carried more clout due to his recent comments.”
A crowd had now gathered to see this mismatch of manifestos. Pointed fingers, a few chuckles and at least two queries regarding how to buy a Paul Merson mask were doing the rounds.
The tall man, exasperated with this cock-up, spoke to a woman directly to his left. ” Please tell me that the others are turning up.”
The woman met his gaze with a look of sheepishness. ” Well, here’s the thing. They’ve just tweeted me and four of the groups felt that the best way to move forward would be to harangue the club on a cyber-level. Y’know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the website. The others didn’t agree with the message so have already gone into the Ems to watch the game. We’re winning 2-0 at the moment.”
The tall man was incandescent at this point. ” I don’t fucking care! When the milk is sour, I’m not the kind of pussy to drink it. I thought everyone felt the same, aside from this new breed. Fuck it. EVERYBODY! Back to the meeting point! ”
Hustling down the stairs with faces longer than the banner that now trailed behind them, the plucky fans slouched towards the rendezvous point. The only man that remained was Mr Bobble-hat.
He stood looking up at the Club Level of the wonderful piece of architecture that Arsenal fans call home. A small shimmer attracted his eye. He squinted but before his eyes could focus, an electrical beeping started to emanate from his wristwatch.
He raised his watch to his mouth and spoke cryptically in a hushed tone
” The murder of crows has dissipated. The cattle can now be milked. ”
With that, he descended the stairs without looking back. He removed the bobble hat to reveal a smoothly polished dome of a head. He also took of the puffer jacket that concealed a sharp black suit with a small Arsenal crest on the lapel. He dropped both articles in the bin and left the scene. About ten seconds later, the bin erupted in flames. No evidence, no trace. Efficiency at its peak.
No one knew the truth. the next stage of their frightful plan could commence……..